Colorado voters rise up over gun laws | TSLN.com

Colorado voters rise up over gun laws

Voters in Colorado learned something Tuesday. So did a couple state senators, including the president of the senate.

The voters learned that they can buck 137 years of statehood history and recall legislators who ignored their wishes, especially when visceral issues like gun control is involved. Two senators learned that if they try to ram things down voters' throats, voters will rise up and smite them.

State Senate President John Morse (D-El Paso) and Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) both lost recall elections Tuesday in Colorado, the first such recalls in Colorado history.

Despite being turned out of office, neither senator indicated acceptance of voter's wishes.

"We as the Democratic party will continue to fight," Morse said in conceding the election. "We will win in the end because we are on the right side," Giron said ("Colorado State Sen. Angela Giron Becomes 2nd Lawmaker to Lose Recall Over Gun Laws Support," Washington Post, 9/10/13).

Having won commanding majorities in both houses of the legislature and holding the governor's office, the Democrats under Morse in the Senate and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Arapahoe), the state's first gay speaker, evinced a charging style that struck legislative opponents as a forceful, quick-strike offense. Several of the gun control laws passed that made Colorado citizens the subject of much stricter gun control laws were pushed through relatively quickly.

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Besides the restrictive gun laws passed over the objections of not only rural citizens, hunters, gun owners and the organized and vocal opposition of dozens of sheriffs, many rural and suburban citizens don't even know another serious blow was landed on their household budgets. With little hearing time and study, the legislature quickly and quietly passed legislation to force billions of dollars in expensive alternative energy costs on the rural electric industry serving Colorado and several surrounding states. Estimates have ranged as high as $4 billion in capital costs for Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Inc., the power generator that supplies 18 of Colorado's 22 REAs. Worse, spending such huge amounts of money might not still be enough to comply in just six years before 2020. The REAs serve over 70 percent of the land area in the state but only 25 percent of the population.

The new law requires rural electric coops to source 20 percent of all their power from alternative sources like wind turbines and solar panels within a very short time period. Hydroelectric power, already a long-time contributor to Colorado electric grids cannot be counted. Rate payers will not only have to pay for billions in wind and solar farms but also the generating plants to back up the erratic sources of electricity and the transmission lines to carry power from remote areas to the grid. Rural electric officials said they were not consulted in the writing of the law, resulting in unworkable mandates, deadlines and costs.

With solar and wind power costing several times the cost of conventional coal and gas power, suburban and rural customers will see significant increases in rates. One farmer estimated thousands of dollars per day in increased costs during irrigation season. Outlying suburbs in cities like Colorado Springs, for instance, depend on rural electric coops for power and will see rates go up. In fact, since wording in the statute forbids the generating coops to raise rates anywhere near enough to recoup costs, it's not clear how the generating coops will recover capital investment costs and survive. Unlike Investor-Owned-Utilities, REAs are not guaranteed a ten percent return on investment.

We're not sure what it is about plumbers and gumption – remember Joe the Plumber posing a key question to candidate Obama? – but it was a Pueblo area plumber, Timothy Knight, who initiated the recall campaign. Recall campaign volunteers gathered thousands of voter petition signatures to force the recall election. Political observers believe Knight's group might be the first to turn in petitions with a 95 percent validity score. They used a handheld computer to check voter registration databases in real-time as petitioners stood by. It is possible this recall will change the methodology used for voter petition efforts in the future.

In addition to local money and volunteer work, over $360,000 was pumped into the fight by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and, further enraging state gun owners, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg provided $350,000 to support the gun control senators. But the spending margin was vastly in favor of defending the gun control advocate senators, with over $3 million raised to support them and only about $540,000 for the recall effort, according to Denver Post figures ("Outside Money Shows National Interest in Colorado Recall Elections," 09/09/13).

Some of the liberal national media, interestingly, have trumpeted the recall results as a big win for the NRA but ignored the other issues and the anger and hard work of many voters disgruntled with the way issues were handled in the legislature this session.

Despite Morse's position as Senate president and bigger city media exposure, the voter turnout was twice as big in Pueblo, 30 percent (32,000) vs. 15 percent (17,000) in Colorado Springs. The night's returns showed the recall posted 51 percent against Morse and 60 percent against Giron, meaning in Morse's case, a few hundred votes was the difference.

Some dedicated Colorado citizens proved they can make a difference if they take the time and trouble to use the political tools at hand and harness today's technology. F

Steve Dittmer

Agribusiness Freedom Foundation